Continuing the celebrations marking ten years of uninterrupted peace, the women of Liberia presented a five-count resolution to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf highlighting their plight and how they can be resolved for the common good of Liberian women and girls.
The women want the three branches of government to: ensure an increase in the representation of women in governance, leadership and decision-making in all sectors and at all levels; put in place mechanisms to ensure that the laws are enforced and women have access to justice; ensure that the educational system is completely overhauled and revamped to conform to international standards; that provisions are made to ensure women's access to funding for entrepreneurship, agriculture and development to take charge and ownership of their destiny; and that the reconciliation process takes a community approach and women are fully involved in the implementation of the Roadmap.
According to an Executive Mansion release, the women presented the five-count resolution during a program marking ten years of unbroken peace in Liberia at the Ministry of Gender and Development on Thursday, August 29.
Presenting the resolution, the women said that for too long they have been marginalized by their male counterparts - a condition they said is equally being fought by President Sirleaf, and wished that further action be taken by the central government. Should this happen, the women believed, their contribution to the growth of Liberia would be remembered and be a reflection of their role and impact during the peace process both at home and abroad.
The program, which brought together several speakers, also provided a platform for women to tell their individual and group stories of their war experiences and the role they played in bringing peace to their country.
An eminent stateswoman, Mother Mary Brownell, who was Founder and President of the Liberian Women Initiative, said the women took risks, moving from one fighting group to the other, their resolve being that Liberia must achieve peace at all cost, as they were guided by their belief that no one should get to the presidency by the gun.
Mother Brownell recalled manually helping to put out a fire when the Sacred Heart Cathedral and the Catholic radio station, Radio Veritas, were set ablaze by rebel soldiers. That action nearly cost her life, and she had to flee her Snapper Hill home for Logan Town, Bushrod Island.
Representatives of Christian and Muslim women also spoke. Rev. Dr. Ketura York Cooper, representing Christian women, urged women who had stories to tell not to only recite them but to write them down for future generations. Rev. York Cooper, who pastors the AME Empowerment Temple in Congo Town, then presented her written account to President Sirleaf.
Mrs. Asatu Bah-Kenneth, who spoke for the Muslim women, said that in their search for peace, they learned how to tolerate each other's religion, because their only goal was to achieve peace for Liberia. "In search of peace, Muslim women began to sing Christian songs and Christian women began to sing Muslim songs. This is how our struggle was unique," Attorney Bah-Kenneth recalled.
President Sirleaf, receiving the resolution, termed the women's peace role as courageous and that it will go down in the history of the country. She reminded them of the women who were advocates long before they came on the stage, among them, Paramount Chief Suakoko, Angie Brooks Randolph, Emma Shannon Walser and, now, Mother Mary Brownell. "It is based on their courage and resolve that we can all sit down today to draw up a resolution like this, which has moved market women and family members to all join the call now for justice and equal rights. That is the courage of women," the President said.
U.S. Ambassador Deborah Malac expressed delight at being a part of the women's story-telling program which she said had helped her get some first-hand information on Liberian women's courage and what they wanted for their country. "Standing before weapons, in search of peace, was unimaginable but tells the world what humans can do if they want a genuine cause for their county." She pledged her government's support to the cause of women.